Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
What Happened in 2013
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is a mystery man unlike any other the Phillies have ever signed. Most baseball players from Cuba are. As mysterious as the island they come from. The Phillies are rolling the dice in hopes that they hit a Puig-like jackpot. Cuban defectors have flourished in Major League Baseball in recent years – most notably Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig. Even going back to Livan Hernandez and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez.
Gonzalez is 27 years old with a long, lean frame (6’2″ 185 lbs). He was a star pitcher until he tried to defect in January 2012. That attempted defection led to a suspension from playing organized ball in Cuba ever again. He pitched for the Cuban National Team from 2007-2011. He also pitched in Cuba’s “major league.” His numbers were fairly impressive considering the high quality competition he faced on a consistent basis. In his last 32 starts in Cuba, he pitched 212 2/3 innings, 14-11 W-L, and a 3.09 ERA. However, because of his attempted defection and subsequent suspension, he hasn’t pitched competitively in two years – missing all of 2012 and 2013.
In early 2013, he finally succeeded in defecting from the island nation. He defected to El Salvador before finally taking up residence in Tijuana, Mexico. Once his Mexican residency became official, Major League Baseball declared him a free agent in June 2013. From that point on, it was a free-for-all amongst potential big-league suitors. In July, he signed a contract with the Toros de Tijuana to pitch in some games as a showcase for major league scouts. One outing attracted approximately 60 scouts from at least a dozen teams. One team (not the Phillies) sent eight scouts to see if he was the real deal.
Only July 26, reports began to surface that the Phillies had signed him to a 6-year/$60 million contract. That was followed by news of a snag in the negotiations when his medical history was made available. Gonzalez had surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow in January 2012. For some, that was a red flag. So, they headed home empty-handed. In August, Gonzalez and the Phillies finally agreed on a 3-year/$12 million deal with a vesting option for 2017. Gonzalez arrived in Clearwater soon thereafter to commence his journey.
What To Expect in 2014
Gonzalez will begin camp next February as an odds-on-favorite to win a spot in the starting rotation. It will be very interesting to see how his stuff translates at the major league level. Depending on which scout you ask, he throws seven or eight pitches. You name it, he throws it. That includes an occasional knuckleball. It is expected that pitching coach Bob McClure will whittle that robust arsenal down to four pitches.
He throws his fastball in the 91-94 mph range. The fastball will top off at 96 mph a few times per game. His slider, curveball and forkball (splitter) are plus pitches as well. What will be interesting to see is how he handles the adrenaline rush of live competition after not having pitched for two years. He will be in Clearwater most of the off-season working out and building up arm strength.
If he is as advertised, he slots in very nicely behind Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels as the Phillies’ number three starter. If, by chance, he doesn’t win a spot in the starting rotation, he would make for a very pricey set-up man. His will be one of the more intriguing stories during the spring.